Music is great if you’re deaf… really?

I’ve been watching how the music industry don’t seem to think deaf people listen to their wares… and that we are only really interested, maybe, in how loud it is, or how much “beat” it has got.  How wrong they are.  We all wish that they would subtitle what they produce, so we can enjoy it too.

How can deaf people enjoy music?

I learned all about music at school, at Mary Hare, where I played  the recorder, guitar and keyboard. I have had no hearing at all since I was 5.  Not being able to hear music is not a barrier to learning an instrument. The difficulty is you have to use your eyes to read the score and the same eyes to use the instrument. You have to learn how much breath to blow through the instrument to create the right note, too hard and it’s high, too soft and it’s low.  Or how hard  to pluck the strings (and which ones), and how tight to hold them on the neck  for a guitar. It’s not easy.  Once you have discovered how many beats to a bar, and how fast the beat goes,and how many notes needed per beat or how long to hold a chord for,  you can fly.

There are several ways deaf people may perceive music, I do not profess to be an expert on others’ enjoyment of music – so please do correct me if I have misunderstood.

1) Deaf people can learn to play an instrument. Learning an instrument introduces deaf people to how music is put together and how the melody mixes with the beat and the rhythm. Learning to play an instrument gives you a feeling of being at one with what (little) you are hearing. I link the melody to the words, each note is part of a word that has a level of pitch that gives me an idea of how the emotion fits the sound to the word.

Me aged 18 when we played “Happy Birthday” for Lorin Maazel’s 50th birthday with Beethoven trust (Ann Rachlin and Prince Charles).

2) People who become deaf can remember when they used to hear – most deafened people who have a CI have an auditory memory of sound – they will remember what they used to hear. I have been told that what tunes you remember sound better when there is a memory of them. So deafened people with a CI are likely to love the “golden oldies”, the music they heard before they lost their hearing:

3) Some deaf people, especially those deaf from birth are intrigued about what music means to hearing people, They question what it actually is that makes hearing people go all loopy at the sound of a favourite tune.  Born Deaf people are likely to go for those songs with lyrics which have a meaning. This one, cleverly shows some emotion intended in the BBC original for Perfect day.

4) Some deaf people have listened to music all their lives, and live and breathe it like hearing people do. They would be attracted by embedded words into the songs, or as here, by lipreading along with listening.

5) Some deaf people really haven’t a clue and just follow the crowd – and prefer to watch the BSL  – again, the lyrics will be important because they are following a “story” or “poem”  The actual music itself would not be as important as the language access.

So feeling vibrations, seeing the videos (preferably with a face that can be lipread and with subtitles), watching someone doing it in BSL for BSL users and playing yourself can all give deaf people an appreciation of music.

I have no intention of breaching any copyright or whatever in posting up  these you tube videos. I apologise if I have. They are posted simply for educational purposes and to highlight how important making such videos with subtitles are to deaf people. We DO like music too, don’t exclude us, but remember – who is your audience? and how are you  making the music accessible to the 10 million of us in the UK who do not hear the music as well as you do?

About Suzie

Mother, Wife, Teacher, Cook and Hearing dog owner. Passionate about Equality for deaf and deafblind people. Believes in communication for all and breaking down these barriers, real and perceived. Deafened.
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5 Responses to Music is great if you’re deaf… really?

  1. My level of deafness is such that I can still hear and enjoy music, but can not understand a single word. I have to be able to read the words or know the song. I can not hear the words in songs I do not know. I can not. I wish I could. I can’t.

  2. Hello to all, how is everything, I think every one is getting more from this website, and your views are fastidious designed for
    new visitors.

  3. Wisteria says:

    Thanks for posting this. I always wondered if a deaf person could really enjoy music

  4. Alexander says:

    hey there, i hope you dont mind, but i really liked the portion of your article explaining your life at Mary Hare, and i used that in my paper about music in my EnglishII Honors class, if it is not alright, i will withdraw my paper and find a new source

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